Obasanjo, Nigeria's Unlikely Hero

Jan 26, 2018

Olusegun Obasanjo, we may forget the messenger but not the message

I've never really made up my mind on Olusegun Obasanjo, former military head of state, as well as former president of Nigeria. He is somebody that is really difficult to decode. At one moment he sounds heroic, and at another, he sounds like a villain.
When he was president, he condoned the rascality of some politicians in Anambra State which culminated in the burning down of the state's common wealth. This was after the then governor, Chris Ngige, had been kidnapped; something that was unprecedented at the time.  
It was clear that had Obasanjo not left office when he did (he had planned to serve three tenures), Anambra would have fallen into the hands of the rascals he was grooming and only God knows what would have been our fate today.
Under Obasanjo's leadership, elections were rigged with impunity and it was a waste of time to go to court. It was a government in which anything could happen.
So when Baba, as Obasanjo is known, begins to act like an angel, his antecedents will always stop people from wholly believing him. But that has not stopped him from baring his mind on any issue when it catches his fancy.
And so, last Tuesday, Baba released a bombshell which explosion shook the foundations of Nigeria. It was the day he issued a red card to the president, Muhammadu Buhari, asking him in no unclear terms, not to bother contesting for second term.
On top of that, Baba reeled out many reasons why Buhari should not contest again and those reasons covered every sin that Buhari has committed so far. They ranged from his lopsided and pretentious corruption fight, his clannishness in appointments, his insensitivity to the feelings of his country people, his bias against other tribes, his glove treatment of the killer herdsmen of his Fulani ethnic stock and his incompetent handling of the nation's economy.
It is not as if Obasanjo had said what other Nigerians had not said before then and still been saying. Senator Ben Bruce had openly condemned the happenings in the country and the actions and inactions of the presidency, particularly as they concern the activities of the Fulani killers. The Catholic Bishops' Conference had equally spoken out against what is happening. A few governors did same. But then, the difference is that all those people and group lack the influence that Obasanjo possesses in Nigeria.
In truth, Obasanjo is one Nigerian who can look the leadership in the eye and say anything without anything happening to him. In the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, he not only carpeted Jonathan, he publicly tore his party card as a demonstration of his disgust with the then PDP-led federal government.
He had also spoken openly to Yar'Adua then, about his ill health. The only instance that his speech landed him in deep shit was during the regime of maximum dictator, Sani Abacha. It earned Obasanjo a visit to prison but from which he emerged to become president. Before then, he had warned Abacha from prison that no condition was permanent. Abacha later died mysteriously when he thought he had everything sewn up.
Also while as president, Obasanjo dealt with the North in such a way that they did not even do or say anything. It was really unlike the north. But Baba came away unscathed. That's to show you the kind of man Obasanjo is.
While he is not known to be a saint, he is however respected for his bravery. He is never cowed by anybody and the intriguing thing is that whenever he speaks, the country listens. His speech last time out is really making waves. Nigerians, most of them, are applauding. The ruling APC government is not happy, but yet constrained from lashing out at him. Instead, they merely, quite meekly, said Obasanjo could have been unaware of the true situation of the country because of his busy schedule. They had then proceeded to reel out what they claim as achievements but which obviously did not fool many of us.
Again, Obasanjo seems to be the proverbial night bird whose cry portends ill omen. All of those he spoke against either ended up leaving office or dying. Abacha and Yar'Adua died, while Jonathan lost. Now this bird of ill omen has cried out once more. Will Buhari die or lose?
While we are left to conjecture on what may be the fallout of the latest cry of this night bird, I will want to salute Obasanjo for his courage in speaking out. Perhaps, with him, it is best to ignore what he does but abide by what he says.
Being that he is one man all governments listen to, his bombshell on Buhari should be celebrated. Perhaps, having spoken his mind, other Nigerians who have been cowering in their holes like frightened lower animals can now crawl out of their holes and join in crying out against the many evils of the Buhari Administration.
What rankles Nigerians the most is the government's failure (or is it refusal?) to address many issues that are anti-people. For instance, the fuel crisis has persisted despite the toll it has taken on Nigerians. This is the longest fuel crisis in known memory in Nigeria. In the past, this problem had always been quickly resolved, even when oil marketers/workers had gone on strike. But this time, there has been no strike, yet Buhari hasn't been able to resolve it and his ''people'' have been groaning.
His government seriously lacks a human face. It isn't as if it is a surprise. In 1985 or thereabout, three young men, including a student of IMT, Enugu, had been executed by a firing squad after being found guilty of drug peddling. But the saddening thing was that the decree prescribing capital punishment for that was promulgated after the young men were arrested. Despite pleas from all quarters, including those from the international community, Buhari blocked his ears and had those young men killed by a firing squad. It was a brazen display of meanness and wickedness.
As a follow up to Buhari's meanness, Nigerians have been dying in their numbers from the bullets, arrows and machetes of Buhari's kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen. He has yet to raise a finger against them, but instead wants those being killed and maimed to donate their lands to the marauders, even when those marauders are involved in private business.
The height of his insensitivity was when some self-serving and boot licking governors went up to Buhari, a day after the killing of 73 innocents in Benue State by the herdsmen, to plead with Buhari to run again in 2019. To them and Buhari, those killed the previous day were of no more value than the cattle Buhari does everything to protect.
In saner climes, the death of one person is enough to stop the president in their tracks. You see those presidents suspending everything to condole with families of victims and vowing to fish out the culprits. Here, people kill others or threaten to kill, and come on national television to gloat about it and nothing happens to them.
This last action by Buhari is seen by Nigerians as an insult to them, especially to the families of those killed. But what can they do? If they protest, they are herded together like cattle and put in jail. Those unlucky are mowed down by bullets and life goes on. But touch any of Buhari's anointed and you are in soup. In the dead of the night, his security goons will scale your wall, shoot in the air and arrest you. The case of Daniel Elombah, an internet blogger, is still fresh in our memories.
There's really no difference between the era of military rule and now under Buhari. His attack dogs are set loose only after his ''enemies''. No one is free to talk in a democracy. In short, to talk is to ''Die''.
What about the lopsided appointments of Mr President? He has taken nepotism to heights unknown. Virtually all the sensitive positions in his government are occupied by his people, such that even if the people reject him at the polls, those people around him who control everything will manipulate things to favour their master.
But I blame the outsiders in his government who should have been talking but who elected to preserve their positions by remaining silent while their people suffer and die. In this category are the Yorubas, Igbos, Middle Beltans and, indeed, every appointee not of Hausa Fulani stock. They should have resigned long ago to show their disenchantment. But in Nigeria, you don't expect those benefiting from any system to resign.
Worse still, some of these people come down to disturb us with tales of how good Buhari is and how necessary it is to re-elect him. I think our people are very kind to them, else, stones would have been hurled at them long ago.
It is these sins of Buhari that Obasanjo came out bravely to highlight and besides that, he is asking Buhari to go home and not recontest.
Obasanjo has spoken, some others have too. It is left to us to do our bit by voting out this pretentious, blood thirsty and clueless government. Let's do it first and see what happens. But in the interim, I doff my hat for Baba Obasanjo. He has proved that an elder does not indeed stay at home and allow a goat give birth while tethered. To you, Obasanjo, you are Nigeria's unlikely hero!


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